How Canadian Immigration helps Amtrak compete with airlines for user-unfriendliness.

Today was the day I was scheduled to go back up to Canada, after 3 weeks down here in Seattle training at the offices of the company I contract for. In an ideal world, I would have headed back to Vancouver, whereupon I would have located a furnished apartment to stay in until the end of June, or, with an application to Canadian immigration, possibly as late as October.

Instead, I spent 4 hours getting down there, 3/4 of an hour being interrogated by Canadian Immigration personnell, 6 hours sitting in a stationary train being watched over by a security guard, and another 4 hours back to Seattle.

Basically, the Canadian customs officer decided my reasons for wanting to (re)enter Canada weren't wholesome enough. The fact that I was contracting for a Seattle company, and planning on staying in Vancouver with trips down to Seattle at intervals, apparrently indicated to him that:
1) I was doing this to avoid US visa requirements, which prohibit me from working for the Seattle company as an employee in Seattle, by tele-commuting from the conveniently-nearby Vancouver.
2) He had no proof that my company was even applying for an H1B VISA ...

Things that are strange about North America, part 1

- Coins are 1c (useless bits of copper), 5c, 10c and 25c. Canada sensibly has $1 (a 'Loonie') and $2 (a 'Toonie') coins. The US still has scraps of tattered paper for $1, and nothing for $2.

- The 5c coin is bigger than the 10c coin. So is the 1c coin. Yes, the 10c coin is the smallest coin of the lot.

- 10 coins are 'dimes', and 5c coins are 'nickels'. The 10c coin doesn't even say what its value in cents is, just 'one dime'.

- Pedestrian crossing buttons are sometimes on the side of the pole facing the direction you want to cross, and sometimes 90 degrees from that (with an arrow pointing the direction you should cross for this button). They are never on the opposite side of the pole to the direction you are going so you can press it as you approach.

- The only 'barn dance' crossing I have encountered has a recorded voice telling people how to use it.

- Cars drive on the right (duh).

- Most roads are more than two lanes, even right in the middle of town.

- The lanes are really narrow.

- Instead of one set of signals, possibly with additional left and ...

Stereotypes in action!

On Sunday evening (a little before midnight - the Amtrak train got in really late), I arrived at my accommodations for the next 3 weeks - the Pacific Inn in Bellevue. Checking in, the person at the desk asked me for my passport or driver's license so he could take a copy of it. I gave him my passport, which he took to another room to photocopy.

I waited for him to return. And waited. And waited. About 5 minutes after he left, he came back in, without my passport or a copy, and said "You're a software guy, right?".

I'm sure you can see what's coming. He was unable to operate the photocopier. He asked me to take a look. I pressed the '+' button to increase the number of copies from 0 to 1, then pressed the copy button. It copied.

What amuses me here isn't that he was unable to operate the photocopier - any photocopier that defaults to 0 copies (and returns to that when all its copies are made) is particularaly badly designed, and it's not surprising he had trouble if he hadn't used it before. What amuses me is how incredibly ...